Careful With Public Shaming. That Means Don’t.

This morning, I saw a political post on Facebook that I was tempted to share.

It was a photograph, allegedly taken in the past few days.  It showed a group of white people partying on a public sidewalk in Manhattan, mask-free and not observing COVID-19 social distancing rules.  The text in the post was credited to a man who identified himself as black, and he was pointing out that a crowd of white people didn’t have the same worries about being confronted by the police that he and his friends would have if they did the same thing.

I really wanted to share that post because I believed the person who wrote the text was right.

I have my own experience with white privilege, and I lived past the age of nineteen because of it.  I had called the police to ask for help with a violent situation that I hadn’t been able to control, and at one point I was situated between a responding officer and a person who wouldn’t keep his hands out of his pockets.

You know what would have happened if that other person and/or I had been black.  We were white, and the officer didn’t discharge his gun.

I know I’ve benefited from having light colored skin, and I’m not proud of that.  I also get upset when white people take advantage of the fact that we’re safer with the police.

I didn’t share that Facebook post denouncing white privilege, though.  Why?  Because I don’t know for a fact when the photo was taken.  Those people may have congregated months or years ago.  No one was displaying a newspaper front page, so the date wasn’t documented.

I don’t doubt that some white people are acting with impunity and ignoring lockdown orders, and they have it easier than people of other races who do the same.  I didn’t want to add to the shame that was already inflicted on that group in the photo, though, because I don’t know if they’re personally guilty of any offense.

The internet can be used to trash anyone’s reputation, and even people who aren’t identified by name in photographs can be hurt if their pictures are shared in a particular context.

Please use caution when posting or sharing online material that can invade someone’s privacy or harm someone’s reputation.  If you’re unsure of any aspect of it, just leave it alone.

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